IN BRIEF Energetic, great-sounding musical ticks most boxes but the book feels homogenised.
The first Latin crossover megastar, Gloria Estefan won 26 Emmys and sold over 100 million records worldwide. If you are in your forties then you will probably have grown up listening to her. If you are younger then perhaps she will not be as familiar to you, but hers is a story worth celebrating as portrayed in this lively and well-cast show with 26 numbers professionally presented.
ON YOUR FEET! tells the story of Gloria and her family, how she met her future husband Emilio and the key part he played in persuading the shy Gloria to sing in public. Encouraged by her feisty Grandmother, navigating family tensions, Emilio and Gloria work hard, write and perform and through sheer hard graft make their names and become the first true Latin crossover artists. With Gloria’s near-fatal bus crash the show hits its dramatic highpoint, and her recovery and return to the stage, aided by fan letters and family cohesion, is a fitting point at which to end this show’s story.
It’s a path that we have all trodden many times before with these musical biogs, and the books of these shows can often feel pretty homogenised for the mass market, and frankly this one can feel a little soapy at times. It’s all very efficient, but rather flat. However, the proof of the pudding with all musical biogs is in the music, which is where this show scores highly, with a crack band pumping out the best sound that I have heard in a theatre in quite sometime. The horn-heavy, hyper-percussive sound is first-class, its spirit and energy well-communicated through some fierce and fast dance routines performed by a capable posse of dancers.
“The horn-heavy, hyper-percussive sound is first-class”
Talking of the music, the placing of songs is effective, ballads following dance hits from Gloria’s extensive catalogue, which gives a little more credibility to the script; Act One ends with a late attempt to get the stalls aisles up and dancing, and the megamix at the end of the show’s storyline racks up more quick musical wins; it should satisfy most Este-fans, although a lot of the songs prior to this final mix seemed rather short to my ear. As Gloria, Christie Prades was all one could expect, with a strong voice which is a good match to the qualities of Estefan’s voice, she plays the script with sincerity and gets what she can out of its storyline. George Ionnaides as Emilio is vocally well-equipped in his solos and effective in his supporting role. Madalena Alberto shines in her rare chances as Gloria’s mum, and Karen Mann as everyone’s favourite Grandma ticks the nice and cute boxes.
The show carries a heavy lighting rig which gives the show a concert look when needed which works well. I wasn’t so crazy about the fuzzy projections on a loose backcloth which often billowed like a sail in the wind as the dancers whirled around. However at the end of the show the audience appeared satisfied and happy that they got their money’s worth.
ON YOUR FEET! runs at the London Coliseum until 31 August, tickets and information here. It then begins a UK tour until April 2020, details of which can be found here. NB In London, alternate Philippa Stefani plays the role of Gloria Estefan at performances on Thursday 2:30pm and Friday 7:30pm, and will play the role for the entire UK tour following the London dates.